If we put it off until the fourth Thursday, then Thanksgiving may not be the spiritual event for which we hope. Children with families of their own will drive back to Mom and Dad’s. Lots of warnings will be issued to children in the back seat: “Don’t talk about you-know-what in front of Grandpa and Grandma.” Bizarre promises will be made: “If you will just try everything, even the green stuff, we’ll drive through McDonald’s on the way home.” Several husbands will be warned: “If you must root against the Dallas Cowboys, at least have the decency not to gloat about it.”
A new son-in-law will have the feeling that he walked into the wrong class—English literature instead of the calculus for which he studied. Everyone else knows all the answers. There will be names, dates, and stories for which they only use the punch line: “We know not to let Linda fix the turkey. Ha! Ha!” The poor confused son-in-law will smile stupidly, having no idea what’s going on. Some in-laws will hope to be a little less confused at Christmas. A few will spend Thanksgiving trying to make other plans for Christmas.
Several college students will second-guess their decision to shave their feeble attempts at moustaches rather than face the humiliating comments of their fathers. Lots of homes that have gotten along on ham sandwiches and microwave pizzas will see some pretty fancy cooking on November 24.
For all the trouble undertaken, Thanksgiving doesn’t really happen for everyone. Many will be glad that they have what they have, but gladness is not gratefulness. The people having turkey and dressing will outnumber those having a real experience of gratitude. Thinking about what we want is easier than thinking about what we have been given. For most of us, having more hasn’t made us more grateful.
In a letter to his yuppie nephew, Henri Nouwen wrote: “Increasing prosperity has not made people more friendly toward one another. They’re better off, but that newfound wealth has not resulted in a new sense of community. I get the impression that people are more preoccupied with themselves than when they didn’t possess so much. There is less opportunity to relax, to get together informally, and to enjoy the little things of life. Success has isolated a lot of people and made them lonely. The higher up you get on the ladder of prosperity the harder it becomes to be together, to sing together, to pray together, and to celebrate together in the spirit of Thanksgiving.”
God calls us to more than one day to say thanks. God invites us to spend our lives as a grateful response to God’s goodness. We should start now.